The MMPL Story: Innovating through the Assisted Model for e-commerce in India


Today I am joined by Shashank Joshi, serial entrepreneur and Managing Director of My Mobile Payments Ltd (MMPL), which he set up in 2010. Today MMPL is one of the companies that are driving the war on cash in India. They make it easier for consumers to keep their cash and cards away and just carry their mobile phones.


Through an extensive network of 225,000 small stores and a multi-lingual app that supports 10 languages and a proposed first support for payments through WhatsApp, MMPL today provides 24 X 7 mobile payment services to subscribers and merchants under their ‘MoneyOnMobile’ brand.

It was great to hear of the multiple innovations and the insights that Shashank had that led to his innovations that bring the uniquely Indian ‘Assisted Model’ of service to use in serving the needs of the unbanked, while also creating profitable transactions for merchants.

Shashank, thanks very much for your time today. Could we begin by understanding your main motivation for getting into the mobile money business in India?

I’ve been a serial entrepreneur for 22 years, having started my first company before leaving college. From 2003 to 2010 I was heavily involved in payments in the US, managing the whole merchant acquiring process from card swipe to settlement and underwriting. My first plan was to start a POS solution in India. However when I did my feasibility study in 2009 it was the exponential growth of the use of mobile services that set our direction and this led to my embarking on money on mobile in June 2010.


How did things evolve from SMS based payments to the mobile wallet app you support today?

At first we started with text messaging. As you know, India is a highly price sensitive market and back then we could expect zero Capex when starting our business. We planned for something that needed no change of handset, was not operator led and worked on all networks and I’m glad to say we got some great numbers in our first 3 years.

Today we provide a mobile app and our customers are the small retail stores. Consumers go to these outlets to recharge mobile phones, pay bills and buy tickets and more.


Please give us a bit of context on the Indian payments scene (especially the PPI business) and share some of your key learnings in bringing services to market

The Indian payments market is indeed pretty unique. I’ll share three of our key learnings to put some colour on this.


Key Learning 1: To succeed in India, Apps must be multi-lingual

India skipped the desktop generation, going direct to mobile. So mobile apps are important, but English only on an app is a deterrent as every state speaks a different language. We modified the app we’d launched last year and now support top 9 regional languages + English. (Ed: Did you know there are 1,683 mother tongue languages in India, with 780 different languages in use today?)

We support Android as that’s a more realistic $65 price point as compared to Apple/ BlackBerry. The unbanked is our primary segment and they have been taking to cheaper smartphones with data plans, to avail of WhatsApp messaging. In fact, MMPL expects to be the first company in India to launch on WhatsApp in the near future. We are also the first to have launched a multilingual app of this kind.


Key Learning 2: Ability to convert cash to digital currency is a game-changer



We have focussed on building our key asset in terms of cash network. We already have the ability to convert cash to digital currency at 225,000 “Mom & Pop” outlets in every state across India barring J&K. Going forward we are aiming to increase this to a million by end 2015 (we estimate approximately 4 million small stores exist in India just now).


Key Learning 3: Move from COD to CBD

You know how India has developed this unique Cash on Delivery (COD) model. Well the thing is, as many as 8 of 10 cases may be impulse buys – satisfying wants rather than needs. By the time the delivery is on your doorstep in 4 days, quite often that impulse has faded.



E-Commerce cannot be profitably built on a COD model alone: it needs to be a payment first model. At MMPL we are building a Cash Before Delivery (CBD) model. This is a payment method in which an order is processed when received, but is shipped only upon receipt of full payment. Consumers pay from money on mobile wallet to the e-commerce provider, who gets a settlement as he gets from Visa and MasterCard. His payment is now in the bank before the goods are shipped.


That is fascinating, thanks Shashank. But I’m still a bit confused about B2B v/s B2C. As you mention that your customers are the stores, could you tell us how this unique model works in India?

In India the B2C model is protected by RBI who must protect consumers. On the other hand the B2B model, where we are talking to the stores is not directly regulated by RBI. In India the B2C model is not seeing so much traction due to the current RBI restrictions on Cash Out. It is rather the B2B model that is growing fast. If you put  ₹ 10,000 on your phone, you can only use it to pay for services, not extract any of it back if you need it.


Please tell us a bit about the unique “Assisted Model” of service unique to Indians, and how you innovate to serve the payment needs of the people with this model

People have the tendency to come into the store and ask someone to do the transaction. At first I thought this may be a language issue, but it goes deeper. The self-serve model that is popular in the Western world simply does not work here, is not in the Indian DNA. Look at hotels – there is no such thing as a self-check in hotel here. There is not a card on file concept.

The B2B model really facilitates this assisted model. The outlets are not branded; they are small convenience stores which people visit daily. These retailers have a prepaid arrangement with MMPL – I give them a consolidated balance from which they can then do bill payments, top-up recharge and other functions on behalf of consumers. They hang a small sign outside their shop to let people know the walk-in services they offer, as a footfall driver.


Shashank, how do you see regulations evolving in India in the near future?

We are currently involved in a pilot with RBI using Aadhaar card authentication. In another 3 months we should heva the results of the pilot. The pilot has seven participating companies and began two and a half months ago. It’s quite low key for now, on RBI’s stipulation – we can’t do a lot of advertising about it. In fact RBI has been very helpful in evolving these new regulations, and certainly the new government and the highly progressive RBI Governor’s vision greatly helps in evolving services in a way that will help the cashless models of the future.


Shashank, it has been fascinating to talk to you and to understand your story. Although I am only just back from our detailed market study for creating our “Digital Money in India 2014”, speaking with you has added more dimensions already, and it just shows how fast the market is evolving and growing. Wish you the very best for the rest of the year, and for your ambitious goals for 2015!



Subsequent to this interview MML won the ‘Best Wallet’ award at The Emerging Payments Awards held in London on October 23, 2014, withstanding stiff competition from major international m-wallet brands such as Starbucks Mobile Wallet UK, EE Cash on Tap and JustYoyo. Congratulations to Ashank Joshi and the MMPL team!



Shashank Joshi is the Managing Director of My Mobile Payments Ltd, a leading mobile payments solutions company based in Mumbai, India, which owns the "Money-on-Mobile" brand. A serial entrepreneur, Shashank has over 22 years of professional experience of leading companies in the areas of IT and ITES, Outsourcing, Transition, Management consulting and Mobile Solutions. He pioneered the successful execution of Merchant Cash Advance and Merchant Processing businesses through the offshore route. Shashank studied Mechanical Engineering from MIT.


Charmaine Oak is Practice Lead of Shift Thought

Author of The Digital Money Game, co-author Virtual Currencies – From Secrecy to Safety

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From smartphones to super wallets: how a new breed of applications is changing mobile banking


This is an interesting time in the development of the digital payments market in Poland. The leading banks are collaborating to launch mobile payment services that potentially bypass the card schemes, allowing consumers to pay directly from their bank accounts. As a follow on from our previous blog, Transforming the way people pay in Poland Charmaine Oak interviewed Tomasz Krajewski, Head of mCommerce at eLeader. SuperWallet claims to be the first wallet to combine mobile banking, mobile payments and mobile commerce services. Tomasz shares his thoughts on the Polish payments market, as well as other markets in which eLeader has been active.


CO: Tomasz, thanks for taking the time to share with us your thoughts on the development of mobile commerce, in Poland and elsewhere in the world. To start with, could you kindly give us a short introduction on the achievements of eLeader. In which markets do you now operate, and who are your main customers?

TT: eLeader is a leading mobile software company, with experience that dates back to the origins of the smartphone industry. Our services are used in over 70 countries worldwide and clients include Grupo Santander, Unicredit Group, mBank, Danske Bank, Raiffeisen, the National Bank of Kuwait and Orange/T-Mobile.

Our innovations have allowed us to achieve a number of awards and high ranks in industry reports, including a mention in the Top worldwide mobile banking vendors report (Juniper Research, 2012), Technology Fast 50 CE (Deloitte, 2008) and the Top technology companies in Europe (Red Herring, 2013).


CO: How has eLeader gained such a leadership position in Mobile Banking?

TT: You can say that going against the current is in eLeader’s DNA. We launched in 2000 with mobile solutions to support employees to work remotely, from outside the office. In those days in Lublin, where we are based, few people had even heard about smartphones, and many felt that this was a crazy idea. And perhaps so it was, but the product was a total success.

We started to invest into mobile banking in 2006 and that was the time when people were speaking about the brilliant future of WAP protocol, forgotten today. Back then, few had heard of smartphones. The iPhone and Android had not yet made a mark. Nokia had a dominant position in the market. At that time, we believed that native apps would be the future of mobility also in the banking industry.

Our first mobile banking platform was revealed in 2007 and it was based on native apps for 3 platforms: Symbian, BlackBerry and Pocket PC. As far as we can tell, ours could well have been a world first solution, with native apps individually designed for all the major OS platforms, accounting for over 95% of the smartphone market.

Raiffeisen Bank became our first customer in Poland. I remember meeting with the President of the bank. Instead of showing a slide deck, our CEO, Dobromir Piekarski, handed him a Nokia smartphone with our banking app – without any instructions. He played with the app in silence and just asked a simple question: How much? After a negotiation of just one minute they shook hands on it. The legend is that this could have been one of the fastest decisions in the banking industry, ever!

CO: What were some of the challenges you encountered on the way?

TT: The biggest challenge was our first implementation. As mentioned earlier, we started at a time when the mobile banking industry was in its infancy. There was a lack of best practices and useful benchmarks. We had to convince the clients to use our solution, without any projects in the portfolio, armed only with cold calling. Can you imagine what that was like?

We had to design a new concept of application interface, UX and security measures.

Most banks were generally skeptical about native apps at that time; many said that we are going in the wrong direction. Fortunately very soon the iPhone changed the whole industry and attitudes to mobile apps. Native apps went main-stream, and became the norm.

Another milestone was reached when we entered foreign markets. By that time we had something to show in our portfolio, but still needed to prove that an unknown Polish company was able to make great applications and that too without any branches in the client’s country.


CO: In what way is Innovation in mobile banking held back by compliance requirements?

TT: Did you know that when the financial crisis came to Poland none of the banks have announced bankruptcy?It seems that none of them have even been in danger of such a situation.

To some extent this is thanks to Polish banking supervision which is very strict in terms of control. However, on the other hand regulations are so far-reaching that they do not allow banks to overstep clearly defined and legally imposed limits. This extends also to the sphere of innovation. You can say that from the regulator point of view, banking is for banks, and deviations from this principle are not allowed.

For instance, take the most used mobile banking functionality – checking one’s bank account balance. Because this is considered disclosure under banking secrecy, bank should require that the user authenticates before gaining access to balance information. Some of banks will ask you to login. Other banks will show you only the percentage of funds left in your account. There is also a bank which lets users choose which of the options would suit them best. You may say this is not a big innovation, but it clearly shows that users want the simplest solutions possible.

Non-bank start-ups are not subject to banking regulations, which is undoubtedly their competitive advantage in the market.


CO: In what areas do you see mobile security improving over the next 3 years?

TT: The trend to watch is certainly biometrics. My voice will be my password to mobile banking. Gartner predicts 30% of organizations will use biometric authentication on mobile in 2016 so this is worth watching.


CO: What has caused the Polish market to develop more rapidly than some other European markets in recent years?

TT: Polish people don’t use checks, and we never did. When in the 90s Poland entered capitalism after the communist era, emerging banking industry implemented only the newest IT solutions, leap frogging the old payment systems. This is one of the reasons why today we lead in contactless payments globally, and can transfer money from one bank to another in just 30 seconds, thanks to the Elixir Express standard.

Contactless penetration in Poland is higher than anywhere else in Europe or the Americas. This is largely because Visa and MasterCard have invested to subsidize contactless readers, so as to transform Poland into a showcase market for contactless payments. We are at the forefront not just in penetration of cards with a contactless function (20 million, 57.7% of all cards on the market) but also in number of POS accepting contactless payments (in the fourth quarter of 2013 this was already 170 thousand, or 52.1% of all the devices on the market).

Other important favorable factors for Poland include the high mobile and internet penetration, the highly educated society and our continued economic growth. According to Person’s ranking our education is ranked 10th in the world and the last time we had a recession was at the beginning of the XXIII century.


CO: How does eLeader expect to continue to play a leadership role in Europe, and elsewhere?

TT: The year 2014 is critical for us, as it is the time for us to launch the new mobile solutions that we have developed through our focused Research & Development over the last few years.

The product we are now introducing to the market is the SuperWallet. It is a combination of m-banking, m-commerce and m-payments. The biggest innovation of these is our embedded in-app commerce services. These services allow users to, for instance purchase public transport tickets, shop for groceries with home delivery, pay for cinema tickets, order taxis and pizzas or book flights.

Our aim is to transform mobile banking into the first choice financial app for smartphone users by supporting them to perform all their daily activities. Recent SAS studies point out that, above all, users perceive mobile wallets as a way to buy goods online, pay bills and check bank accounts. All of these and much more can be achieved by one SuperWallet app.

Together with an ecosystem of integrated merchants, the SuperWallet is offered as a white label solution for banks in a PaaS (Payments as a Service) model.

This has already been successfully deployed by the biggest Santander Group bank in the CEE region, Bank Zachodni WBK, and is gaining popularity among its users. Because the SuperWallet has very flexible architecture and a wide array of capabilities, we are greatly excited to see how it will be used by banks from outside the CEE region.

I believe that the SuperWallet is at the cusp of an emerging market trend. Solutions that are similar but limited to in-app purchases can be found in ICICI Bank and PrivatBank offers.


CO: Tomasz, thanks for your time today!

This has been incredibly informative, and provided us with interesting insights into the payments scene in Poland. Above all, what you have achieved at eLeader is most inspiring and I take this opportunity to wish you the best of success with your plans for the SuperWallet and beyond.

Tomasz Krajewski

Tomasz Krajewski is Head of mCommerce/Superwallet at eLeader. He is responsible for development of SuperWallet, which claims to be the first wallet to combine mobile banking, mobile payments and mobile commerce services, thus adding value to mobile banking. The first SuperWallet was deployed in November 2013 in BZ WBK (the biggest bank of Santander Group in CEE). eLeader is one of the world's top mobile innovators in the smartphone business software market, used by global and national companies in over 70 countries worldwide.